How many do we have left to see? Why National Parks? Why the Maltese Cross?

Status update: We’ve been to 42 of the 63 National Parks. Whew. Yikes, I am way behind on this blog, but that is why we have January!

Everything I do comes with deep intention, and our National Parks journey has been no exception. I am most at home in these remote places; it’s where I feel most alive! The lessons I want my kids to learn, the things I want them to understand about their place in the universe and why we are flying through eternity on this planet, are most easily taught here. God’s gracious hand creating this world for us, is most perfectly viewed through this lens. The wonder and majesty of what we have, this spectacular earth we call home, is omnipresent under starlit skies in the middle of nowhere. Our role in protecting our special places, and helping others maneuver through life together, is best taught on an empty trail. Some of my favorite park memories are when we’ve shared these places with friends and family!

We’ve been at this adventure way longer than it’s been an Instagram trend. It started with a trip to Ixtapa, Mexico! Autumn was a baby, and James a toddler and I was a nervous wreck! It was the most miserable vacation I have been on, in the most beautiful place. I read the week before our trip, bodies were being dumped off shore by the cartels and fed to the sharks. I was terrified of catching illnesses in the pool, Autumn was terrified of the ocean. We all feared her beloved blanket would be lost by hotel staff when we sent it for cleaning. Joe was almost bitten by an alligator when he went golfing – slight exaggeration there, but there were alligators on the golf course. I couldn’t wait to leave!

When we got home, I told Joe we were done touring other countries until we saw all the great places in ours and we promptly bought a pop-up camper and headed to the Grand Canyon. The electrical system didn’t work when we got there and Joe had to drive into town for a new battery. We biked in the rain, we saw condors. We ate lunch with a massive bull elk in the campground. James earned his first Junior Ranger Badge after a hike looking at fossils, and we all fell in love with our National Parks.

We don’t go to say we’ve been. We go to know the places we’ve seen, to learn about them, to learn about the species that call them home. I spend weeks planning each trip to ensure that we have the full experience of the place. Our itinerary’s our usually pretty intense, and I never take enough pictures.

The Maltese Cross picture that marks my posts was taken while we were visiting Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. This cross is carved into his ‘Maltese Cross Cabin’ that he occupied in the 1880’s in the badlands of the Dakota Territory. The president responsible for doing the work to establish the first national park, should get due credit for this great gift. I am always thankful for the foresight he had in preserving these places, and to all the individuals who work so tirelessly to protect and preserve them. Historically, the cross was the symbol of a Christian warrior who pledged not only to fight in defense of the Holy Land, but also to protect the lives of his compatriots. This blog is an extension of the fight to protect our own holy lands and the fight to protect the creatures that call them home.

So, why the blog? I want more than anything to let the people who come across this know how special these places are. I want them to consider visiting, and taking their children. I want these parks preserved and protected into perpetuity. They truly are “America’s Best Idea”.

So, what are we going to do after we see all our National Parks? Well, it looks like I’m missing a few sign pictures – so I guess we’re going back! Truthfully, I’ve never spent enough time in any of them yet.

Support ‘Restore Our Parks Act’

I am unabashed when it comes to writing my representatives, and there are usually one or two issues per year for which I contact them. If you are new to advocacy, it is incredibly easy! To find contact information, click here for your congressman, and here for your senator.

Below is the email I sent mine asking them to support Restore Our Parks Act. Feel free to copy/edit/paste from my letter when you contact your representatives. To learn more about this act, visit National Parks Conservation Association. They explain why support is paramount to funding the $12 billion park system maintenance backlog.

“Please support the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act. As a parent who has taken my children to 29 of the 61 National Parks, I cannot emphasize enough how exceptional these places are and how important they are to my identity as an American. They truly are our National Treasures. Sadly, the maintenance backlog for these places has become nearly overwhelming. Park staff work hard to protect and maintain aging and crumbling facilities, while millions visit. The parks need to be safe, maintained, and accessible in ways necessary to fundamentally protect visitors and that park’s primary purpose (ecological, historical, etc.).

Our park system offers so many things to both citizens of our nation, and foreign guests. Our park system offers educational opportunities to children through the Junior Ranger program. Through this program, my children have learned history, archaeology, ecology, geology, architecture, engineering and paleontology. They have also retained that knowledge because it was taught to them in some of the most beautiful places on earth. For many foreign visitors, these parks also become a window to view our nation. Are we crumbling, are we poorly maintained, are we on the precipice of decline?

I blog and advocate for our national parks, purely for love of them, not for economical gain in any way. You can read about our family’s adventures, enjoy some insight to these special places, and learn about our quest to see all 61 at What national park system sites in Texas have you had the opportunity to visit? We just returned from Big Bend National Park, it was spectacular. It is an absolute gem, and deserving of the protection and maintenance being requested.

I am happy to discuss my love for these places with you further. Please contact me if I can give you any further insight or assist in any way.”




Top 10 Reasons to Visit a National Park on your Family Vacation!

1. To leave the bounds of normalcy and have an epic adventure.

Wander through misty Redwood National Park and imagine you are on another planet when you see otherworldly creatures like the Banana Slug. Hike the dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park and feel Sahara Desert movie scenes come to life. These things cannot be replicated at amusement parks. They are pure and true adventures that will be unique to you, because they are found in the wild.

Redwood National Park

2. To learn about your American Heritage.

There is an abundance of history poured into each national park. They tell the legacy of things we have valued as a nation; and how we determined to preserve these treasures collectively. Your children should know the names of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. They should understand the struggles and the work that countless individuals undertook to preserve these places for us.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

3. To get outside!

We need more outside time! Children are especially in need of time in an unfettered natural environment. It soothes the soul and calms the mind. Get away from mechanization and human creation, and explore nature. It stimulates creativity and spurs the desire to use your mind and body to go beyond.

4. To pass on the importance of preservation.

National parks must have our support! If we do not value them as a nation, then the financial incentive to preserve these places will dwindle. We must pass on a love of wild spaces to our children, only then can we secure national park preservation for future generations.

Badlands National Park

5. To experience the sheer beauty – together.

Don’t wait for retirement before you go and enjoy these spectacular places. In sharing our national park experience with others, all too often we hear them express a plan to visit when they retire. Why wait? The magnificence is too intense not to share with your children. Stand in awe TOGETHER!!

Bryce National Park

6. To make exceptional memories.

Sure, you can make memories on a cruise, on a tropical island resort, or an amusement park but they are managed and manicured. National park memories include things like fly fishing with an elk in Yellowstone! During one trip, my husband was fly fishing and a cow elk walked up behind him and was drinking and eating for a long time before he realized she was there! People were driving by snapping pictures of the delicate scene.

7. To establish shared experiences.

Do you want to have something to talk about with your children? Shared national park experiences are unique in every way. We relive our backpacking adventure in Canyonlands National Park frequently. We laugh and cringe at the slick rock path we skirted around. We share in wonderment the memory of the juvenile wolf we witnessed walking through our campground in Yellowstone National Park.

8. To live STEAM.

With so much talk about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math education in the school setting, why not go live it! National park visitor centers are replete with science. With exceptional Junior Ranger programs, children can do STEAM in the field. Many parks offer “backpacks” with unique supplies that make the park a true learning experience. Most importantly, children are surrounded by YOU and NATURE and the unique experience enhances their memory and inquisitiveness.

Mesa Verde National Park

9. To be docent for people from other nations.

People from all over the world come to the United States to witness the splendor of our national parks. Interactions are inevitable. One favorite experience is when are our children shared smore supplies with a family visiting from Germany. The father wasn’t particularly impressed with the unique campfire cuisine, but his kids were thrilled!! The second was helping a European family with their rental RV slide-out. My husband directed them to the fuse box and helped them with a quick fix, so they could be on their way to the next stop in their tight schedule. They were so grateful. Extending hospitality one to one is how we grow global cooperation.

10. To have fun!!

One family with whom we shared our national park love thought their children wouldn’t know what to do on such a trip. They preferred roller coasters. My kids love a good roller coaster too, but they will be the first to tell you national parks are anything but boring. They have snorkeled; sand surfed; splashed in hot spring fed streams; stood in completely black caverns hundreds of feet underground; and climbed hundred-foot ladders against sand stone cliffs within the park boundaries! Outside park boundaries, entrepreneurs offer even more adventures like rope courses, snow mobile riding, and sailing. Great, and unique fun will find you at any national park!


Biscayne National Park

Growing in a National Park


In the chaotic modern world, overflowing with electronic sub-natural terrain and little opportunity for peace and quiet, being surrounded by nature has become short of elusive. Our National Park System still offers that refuge. In our National Parks your heart and soul intermix with the external beauty unhindered by the complexity of the man-made existence that has become our recent stage. We are a creature whose development has slept under the stars for the millennia, and now we find ourselves blinded without the stars, bathed in an un-natural light. We need our wide open spaces, like air or water. Our selves demand them. Our children, especially, need these places to grow, explore, and develop unhindered by modernity.

Referred to as “America’s Best Idea”, these wild spaces lend room for our souls to flourish.There are 59 National Parks within the United States National Park System, and hundreds of additional Monuments, Military Parks, Historic Sites, Preserves, Memorials, Recreation Areas, Rivers, Seashores, Battlefield Parks, Lakeshores, Trails, and Parks.

This website chronicles the adventures of one family to rest from society those rare and special moments of connection between our internal selves and the natural world while visiting our Nation’s Greatest Treasures with our best gift, our children. There are no electronics here, no amusement park rides or video games. There is only a connection between us and the earth.